Quis custodiet ipsos custodies – Who watches the watchmen?
I couldn’t watch anymore.
It was the beginning of June and I had spent several evenings bent over my laptop watching multiple livestreams of the protests across the country, particularly in Seattle. I watched as protestors marched and chanted in support of the absolute truth that Black Lives Matter, and I watched as they were met with an unending barrage of pepper spray and rubber bullets. I watched as protestors stood peacefully with umbrellas at a barricade, and I watched as Seattle police deployed so much tear gas that it covered the Capitol Hill neighborhood in an ominous fog and left residents sleeping in their hallways. I couldn’t watch anymore.
I wanted to help. But I knew that I had certain privileges as an attorney; if I didn’t use those privileges I wouldn’t be helping to the best of my ability. So I joined the National Lawyers Guild and their network of Legal Observers.
The National Lawyers Guild is a national bar association, and the first racially integrated bar association in the United States. Their mission is to “use the law for the people…in the service of the people by valuing human rights…over property interests.” You may have seen them in the news, they’re the ones at protests wearing bright green hats.
As a Legal Observer, I volunteer to represent clients who are protesting and demonstrating. I attend protests and take notes, photos, and videos whenever law enforcement interacts with my clients. I use my privilege as an attorney to shield those notes, photos, and videos so that my clients may rely upon them in court. My notes might help a client who was wrongfully arrested, a client who experienced police brutality and excessive force during a demonstration, or help prove that it was not my clients who escalated the situation. The NLG also maintains an active arrest hotline, and I coordinate with my Team Lead to ensure that the hotline knows of all clients arrested so they can ensure each one is released. As a result, cops aren’t our biggest fans and that can lead to things getting spicy. (Yes, I have been pepper sprayed. No, I can’t say that I recommend the experience.
In the past three months, I have used Lighthouse’s 16 hours of paid volunteer time off (VTO) to exclusively volunteer as a Legal Observer for the National Lawyers Guild. Although I’ve exhausted my hours, I look forward to continuing my volunteering on the weekends and using my PTO when needed. I no longer just watch, I watch the watchmen.
I am grateful to be working for Lighthouse, a company that prioritizes giving back to its communities, gives its employees time off to volunteer, and uses both its voice and its wallet to say:
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
*Shout out to Stop the Bleed, which puts on free, local trainings on how to properly use a tourniquet.